All the favourites made it safely through to the final in the women’s 3000m steeplechase heats this morning.
The three heats were incredibly close to each other, with the winning times within two seconds of each other, possibly due to there being just three automatic qualifiers from each heat, followed by the six fastest times.
It came as no surprise to see the top athletes on this year’s world list recording the fastest times in the heats. Tunisia’s world leader Habiba Ghribi, the Olympic silver medallist, won her heat in 9:24.38 for the best mark in the heats. The second fastest was German Gesa Felicitas Krause, finalist at the past two editions of the World Championships, in 9:24.92 and Ethiopia’s Hiwot Ayalew was third fastest in 9:25.55.
In the first heat, Australian Madeleine Heiner kept a good pace from the start, passing 1000m in 3:10.55 and 2000m in 6:22.74. There was no reward at the finish line for the 27-year-old, though, as she ended up as the fastest athlete not to make the final, finishing fourth in 9:30.79. Ayalew was the comfortable winner in 9:25.55 followed by Kenya’s Virginia Nyambura in 9:28.50 with USA’s Stephanie Garcia taking the third automatic qualifying spot in 9:29.34.
The second heat saw Turkish runner Ozlem Kaya take the early lead, reaching the 1000m point in a slightly faster 3:08.29. After that point the pre-event favourite, Ghribi, took over and easily controlled the race until the finish.
Ghribi clocked 6:19.84 for 2000m, three seconds faster than in the first heat, and won in 9:24.38 before Krause’s 9:24.92. There was a surprise in the third place with 18-year-old Rosefline Chepngetich cutting almost 10 seconds off her personal best with 9:25.91. The 2013 world youth champion and world junior silver medallist ran her previous best of 9:35.75 at altitude in Nairobi at the Kenyan Trials in the beginning of August.
In fourth, Lalita Babar set an Indian record of 9:27.86, fifth was Moroccan Salima Elouali Alami in 9:28.18, sixth USA’s Colleen Quigley in 9:29.09 and seventh early leader Kaya in 9:30.23, all qualifying to the final with their times.
Turkey’s Tugba Guvenc clocked the fastest opening 1000m split of 3:05.66 in the third heat, but then the second kilometre was the slowest of all heats, taking 3:15.15, with USA’s Emma Coburn passing the 2000m mark in 6:20.81.
Hyvin Jepkemoi, the current world No.2 and the sixth-place finisher at the 2013 World Championships, won this heat in 9:26.19, closely followed by Ethiopia’s world and Olympic bronze medallist Sofia Assefa in 9:26.47 with Coburn following for the third automatic place to the final in 9:27.29.
Two more athletes qualified from this heat by time. Fadwa Sidi Madane of Morocco set a personal best of 9:27.87 for the fourth place and Bahrain’s Ruth Jebet was fifth in 9:27.93.
Mirko Jalava for the IAAF